From the mouth of a Hazara

Published: January 14, 2013

In this bone-chilling cold and rain, with the coffins of our loved ones lined before us, we are demanding the right to life. PHOTO: AFP

On January 10, 2013 more than 100 people, a majority of them Hazara Shias, were killed in bomb blasts in Quetta. The killing prompted a four-day long sit-in by the families of the victims. 

I just wish that I could have sat with the mourning families at Alamdar Road to protest against the ongoing killing of Shia Hazaras.

I talked to a few people in Quetta, and a classmate of mine narrated to me the stories of mourning and scenes at Alamdar Road through emails.

My classmate’s young married cousin perished in the bomb blast at Bacha Khan Road. Here I will try to accurately narrate the story of grief I was told of that young man’s father, who sat with his son’s dead body…

On the road

Temperatures have fallen below freezing point.

Gusts of biting wind are blowing.

Rain has started falling down in sleets.

Very few of us know that it’s raining because most of us are crying. We can’t distinguish the tears falling from the sky from our own tears.

Men are tightly wrapped in old chaddars, the faces of our women are covered by their long winter scarves, and our children are bundled up in sweaters and caps. Some are being fed by their mothers and others are drinking milk from their bottles, and all of us – old and young – are holding a vigil alongside the dead bodies of our loved ones.

Those who were once alive.

Those who throbbed with life and who could jump with laughter and run with joy.

Now the only sounds that can be heard around us are wails and lamentations. Some cry out bitterly while others weep silently. These sounds of grief are intermittently broken by the cries of babies who are being soothed by their grieving mothers.

My heart shatters into a million pieces when I touch the cold skin of my dead son, and my tears steam down my face, but he cannot respond to my touch, or taste my tears that fall intermingled with the rain.

As I realise my tears will not rouse my son from his eternal slumber, I shove my head into my knees, and clench them tightly. Then, a small, warm human hand covers my shivering body, wracked by sobs. A human figure, pulsating, vibrating with life, throws himself on my enervated frame and kisses me innumerable times.

I hold his warm hand and place it on my heart to slow down its sorrowful beats. This is the hand and touch of my rosy-cheeked grandson. My seven-year-old grandson, a student of class one, a very bright and curious child.

His father died in a bomb blast on Bacha Khan chowk. His father was a bank official and loved his family dearly. Now, his son brings us qahwa and roasted nuts to help us survive the cold. He is a son who would make any parent proud.

After his father’s death, I cannot shield my grandson from profound grief, or hide these chilling facts from him:

That his father will never kiss him again.

That he will never bring toys for him, and that he will never take him to the park.

This is no time for sweet lies and deceptive illusions because our young have to step quickly into adulthood, while our old have try to grow young again to face the dreadful reality of life – a life without our loved ones.

So, all of us converged on Alamdar Road.

We refused to bury our dead, a sacred ritual that has to be carried out immediately, and we refused to begin after-funeral rites to pray for souls of our dear departed, because I and others like me, mourning the death of loved ones, want that our other children and grandchildren are not killed by bombers filled with infinite hatred for humanity.

In this bone-chilling cold and rain, with the coffins of our loved ones lined before us, we are demanding the right to life – a right without which other rights are meaningless.

We do not want water, we do not want food and we do not want shelter; we want freedom from fear and we want freedom to profess our faith.

All of us, young and old, gathered on Alamdar road to ask a few questions in our benumbing grief.

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, beating our chests:

Can anyone give us back our slain sons and daughters whom we nurtured with great care and love?

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, wailing before our unburied:

Can you find a messiah on this wasteland, ravaged by drumbeats of war, to raise our beloved dead?

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, wiping our tears:

Our faith is as much a sacred faith as is yours and theirs  – why kill us then?

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the year 2013 as 2012. This has been changed.

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Sameera Rashid

Sameera Rashid

A research analyst, blogger and a graduate of King's College, London, in public policy.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sawan Shah

    Please correct the date, its 2013 not 2012,
    I shocked at first, that on same date year before that was happened and this year once again,
    but its a mistake please connect itRecommend

  • Huma


  • Travellers

    Prayers for the departed souls and please please now get united Recommend

  • abhi

    very touching narration. Hope people stop playing politics and do something about it.Recommend

  • Tariq Azhar

    sunnis and shias do not kill each other in PAKISTAN. It is America behind these killings. reason to create chaos and destabilize the country to justify its break up and to neutralise its nuclear assets.Recommend

  • Hussain Yousuf

    Tears ….

    I would say the world and all the pakistani’s should unite and help the Shias in not going through such an incident again.Recommend

  • Turbo Lover

    My eyes were almost moistened when I heard of this tragic incident.Recommend

  • Farrukh Haider

    Heartbreaking read! May his son and all the victims RIP. May all the perpetrators suffer and pay for their crimes. Recommend

  • Salar

    simply movingRecommend

  • aziz

    Born as shia or sunni or any other sect/religion is not in the hands of the human beings. God decides where a child should take birth.

    How a human can decide to kill another human on the basis of sect / religion??? if God has decided to let him take birth in that particular sect / religion.Recommend

  • Aaliya Murphy

    Sameera, you know what is even more devastating? It is when the locals have yet to realise that when one citizen from among us dies, the entire nation dies with it. In my recent visit to Quetta, a lot of people still had their misjudged pre-conceived notions regarding the Shia community. This is truly absurd.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very moving, very powerful. The courage, discipline, unity and faith shown by these people is a huge example of what we are capable of. I have nothing but the highest respect for them.Recommend

  • Lord

    @Tariq Azhar:
    I agree with you but i will add to the point who are the perpertrators are they american nationals certainly they are not .What are preconcieved notions about shias its also one reason and they get full support from gulf countries check in the case of Malik Ishaq.Recommend

  • http://@nafyachakzai Nafy Achakzai

    As Governor’s rule has been imposed in Balochistan and the corrupt provincial govt. whose ministers were alleged for helping and supporting the target killers is removed. Actions should be taken against LEJ and other militant groups involved in sectarian violence. Hazara community must be provided protection and law and order situation should be restored as soon as possible.Recommend

  • gp65

    Salute the courage of the brave people on Alamdar road. You are succeeding in waking up the sleeping conscience of many. Recommend

  • bigsaf

    @Aaliya Murphy:

    In my recent visit to Quetta, a lot of people still had their misjudged pre-conceived notions regarding the Shia community. This is truly absurd.

    Its called religious and sectarian bigotry. You’ll find such notions in the comments here as well. Mostly subtle, but sometimes blunt, if not outright discriminatory.

    Unfortunately such prejudice based on Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni Islamist ideologies have been growing more and more among the Sunni majority, making even moderates scarce.Recommend

  • Sameera

    @Aaliya Murphy:

    That is what needs to be changed- prejudices built over the centuries. Appears to me that we have been fossilized with those deep seated biases.Recommend

  • Working Woman

    We all need to unite. Life is all precious. Where is Justice? Recommend

  • patriot

    Aren’t Israel and India responsible for shia murders in Pakistan?Recommend

  • GhostRider

    @Tariq Azhar:
    Stop fooling yourself and speak out…let me tell you the exact words>>>> LeJ thugs and SSP ruffians are killing shias.Recommend

  • patriot

    Protests would not resolve problems.catch the cat!Recommend

  • zara

    Metaphors used by author like freezing points,sorrow winters and rain truly depicts the Agony of Hazra tribe and at the same time frozen conscience of this nation on mass killing of people in Pakistan. If as a nation we are not able to come out from the slumber of indifference;we would be definitely victim of this Agony tomorrow. Well knitted writeupRecommend

  • Erum Fatima

    My heart goes out to all those women who have nurtured their children only to witness their bodies being blown in a blast :( i m out of words to express my grief :(Recommend

  • Salman

    Heart touching and heart rendering!!!!!!!!!!!! Quetta carnage is the turning point where. the non violence has squarely defeated the violence Recommend

  • Shahzad Gillani

    I was on my way to home a medical center adjacent to Bilawal House President’s mansion, there was a sit-in protest. Despite of my surgery few hours before I remanied there for almost 18 hours. This article has crushed me into tears, I wish I bang my head with the wall around mme….. Recommend

  • farzana kamal

    Hazara Nation is the Unique nation in the world, they are able to control the condition of Quetta but the government control the condition of this place,if the Government do not accept our demand then our new youth will do any thing, Recommend

  • fariya

    Was heart touchingRecommend

  • gp65

    @Parvez: “Do you fully realise what you are admitting to when you say this ??”

    Well first of all this was not the right place to for him/her to say what was said.
    But the underlying logic is what Dr. Hoodbhoy has indicated in his OpEd a couple of days i.e. religious bigotry that was nurtured to capture Kashmir is now biting people back in Pakistan. By no means does it mean that India is involved in supporting LeJ.Recommend

  • Madiha Shakeel

    A very tragic happening indeed. No words can describe the tragedy. The whole situation of lawlessness in this country and insensitivity of the rulers adds more fuel to the fire.Recommend

  • Aneeqa Chaudhary

    Above all, there is lack of respect for humanity…Recommend